My Flipboard feed turned up an article on ekinaka at nippon.com. It was not a new idea me because I’ve seen such ekinaka first-hand on my visits to Japan. However, the term is new to me. Ekinaka literally means “inside the station.”
Some of the major train stations in Japan are literally giant shopping malls. Take the one I frequented in Sapporo back in 2014. Sapporo Station primary purpose may be to be the transportation hub of Sapporo. However, most of my time at Sapporo Station was either shopping or dining.
If you take a look at the Sapporo Station shopping map, you will find a collection of 5 separate shopping complexes attached to the station. There is Sapporo Station itself where there are collection of souvenir shops and convenience store kiosks (aptly named Kiosk) line the public area of the station. Below the rails is Paseo. In the front of the station is Stellar Place. To the west of the station is Daimaru, a famous department store. Then to the east and south is ESTA.
I spent quite a bit of time getting lost in the Sapporo Station shopping complex, especially in the basement shopping levels. It was hard to tell exactly which part of the station I was in and whether I was actually below the station itself or the bus terminal.
Many of the rail lines that radiate out from the centre of a Japanese city reach out into the outer regions. At the end of these lines are usually more shopping centres. When the rail lines were built, the railway companies also built department stores and supermarkets at the ends of their rail lines in order to serve their customers and bring more business to the train station.
Railway company-owned shopping centres are a very common sight in Japan. For example, one of Japan’s largest department stores hails originally from Osaka. Hankyu Department Store shares the same name as the Hankyu Railway Company. Hankyu basically built many department stores along their railway lines.
So the ekinaka would be considered the ideal Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) that many planners talk about. Japan has been doing it for years. The rest of Asia also seems to integrate shopping with their transit very easily. North America has some ways to go before we ever have something like an ekinaka.